Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Data-Driven Life

They don't call it the digital age for nothing I guess and further proof showed up recently on the NY Times site with the publiation of an article written by Gary Wolf who, if you read the print article in the May 2nd Sunday Times magazine, you will already know writes about science and social issues for Wired, where he is a contributing editor. The article is called The Data-Driven Life. I found it a fascinating read.

Among other things it made me stop and think much more carefully about the degree to which data plays a role in our lives, both business and personal. If you believe what Wolf has to say in terms of the impact data has, you haven't, as the saying goes "seen nothin' yet."

From a business perspective it made me wonder if those executives who suffer from what back in the day was called analysis paralysis would soon become extinct or whether as data gathering becomes more and more sophisticated if those same executives would all of a sudden become the super heros of the corporate universe not to mention cyberspace.

Seemed to me one could make the argument on both sides and have an equal chance of making the right call.

On the other hand, as we all know data is just data until someone interprets and draws from it conclusions as to how it can most effectively be used to make decisions for the organization.

It was when I reminded myself of this last thought that I started to feel a bit better that maybe we were not all destined to be replaced by R2 D2 and/or C-3PO.

I found myself thinking that while technology continues to move at a pace that is harder to follow than re-runs of trauma cases arriving on ER, that at the end of day no matter how much data we are able to draw from the system value judgements will have to be made and so long as that holds true, people not machines will continue to manage the systems not the other way around.

And before you start sending in cards and letters that remind me that while all this may be true, given our track record as a species we would not likely get too many Oscar nominations for the decisions made to date, hopefully the advances about which Mr. Wolf has written will help us to do a better job.

Those who work with us and for us are probably hoping the same thing.

1 comment:

Matthew Cornell said...

I think this work is important, and Gary's piece was seminal. These ideas generalize into a wider life-as-experiment perspective, and I'd like to link to my response and outline of how it all might fit together here: The Experiment-Driven Life (http://www.matthewcornell.org/2010/06/the-experiment-driven-life.html). Also, we're working on a tool for self-experimenters, called Edison (http://edison.thinktrylearn.com/). Great stuff!